March 13 – Volume 14, #3
“Mind Your Manners”
As a sociologist I have long been dissatisfied with merely documenting society. I’d also like to help to reform society for the better in the tradition of fellow sociologists Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. DuBois and Karl Marx.
In these times, there are many social issues to tackle; from climate change to urban crime. But more than anything else, the issues that are pulling our society apart at the seams are rooted in an overall lack of civility towards one another, and just plain bad manners.
Robert Fulghum once wrote that everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten, and while that is somewhat of an overstatement, there is some merit in the fact that I think the best education I’ve ever received is that which was given by my parents who instructed me to be polite, and to treat each and every human being with respect unless they compelled me to do otherwise.
While my parents are unquestionably dope, they are far from alone in constructing that particular lesson plan. Most of us have also been given instruction on sharing, being generous and not talking with our mouths full. But it is easy to lose sight of such things in this fast-paced, uncivilized modern world that we live in. But good manners are really more important than ever. They can help you in your interpersonal and professional relationships. And perhaps more importantly, they can help you avoid a fierce and unsuspecting ass-whooping.
So indulge me for a moment in laying out a few pointers that I think can help us all treat each other a little better. After all, we have to live in a society with one another. And for society to work at its optimal level we need to have some fundamental levels of mutual respect and consideration.
First of all, cover your fucking mouth when you cough. I mean, what the hell? It’s flu season, for crying out loud. And even if it’s the middle of the summer, there ain’t no tellin’ what other fucking viruses and bacteria some of you nasty motherfuckers have lurking around in there. Cover your damn mouth!
And speaking of mouths, feel free to pop a mint or some gun in there every now and again. You know damn well that you just got through eating some tandoori chicken after smoking three blunts. Your shit is on flame like the dragon, dog. Be mindful of that when you’re all up in somebody’s face. Do your part for society by investing in some mouthwash.
And shut the fuck up sometime. Look, we get it that you’re brilliant. And we fully understand that if everyone was a little more like you then we’d all have our shit together. But in spite of all that, no one really gives a single fuck what you think about their relationship or what career steps they should take. The average person doesn’t want your advice even if they explicitly ask for it. But if they don’t ask your opinion, then keep that shit to yourself. Funny thing is, it’s always the perpetually single, broke, spiritually conflicted people who know it all and yet generally don’t know a fucking thing. Keep your uninformed opinion to yourself. Nobody asked you a damn thing.
Whatever happened to telling people, “bless you” after they sneeze? Did that shit go out of style and nobody told me? Tell people, “bless you” when they sneeze. You’ll feel better and white Jesus will love you.
And what? Some of y’all are too good to speak? At your office, church, social gathering, family reunion, etc, if you’re around a group of people on a regular basis and you enter a room and see them for the first time in a given day, take just a second to say, “hello.” I am positively dumbstruck by the number of adults who feel like it is acceptable to enter a room and not speak to people. That’s some rude, ignan’t shit. Now if you have a legitimate beef with a person, by all means, don’t speak. No one’s suggesting that you be phony. But otherwise, be courteous and say hello.
Stop saying you gone keep it ‘one hundred.” I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but if I’m talking that means that I mean what the fuck I’m saying. Every single word. At all times. Saying that now you’re keeping it one hundred suggests that what you were telling me 15 minutes ago was only keeping it 70 or 80 percent real. And usually probably only about 20 or 30 percent.
Control your fuckin kids or risk suffering the consequences for their actions. Look, I know you think that every single thing that your dumb, fat ass, attention deficient, crumb snatcher does is absolutely adorable. But your unruly sprout swinging his legs to and fro on this crowded bus isn’t cute at all. And there’s going to be some real problems if your bad ass shorty puts his rain-soaked Nike’s on me just one more time. Just one more.
Walk on the proper side of the sidewalk when you’re walking on a crowded, urban street. Dig it, it’s literally hundreds of thousands of people walking on Michigan Avenue in the middle of the afternoon on a given day. We have to work cooperatively to ensure that each of our individual walks is as brisk and unobtrusive as possible. Although there are not any officially drawn lines on the sidewalk, patterns quickly emerge that dictate how people are walking. It is the responsibility of every citizen; of every man, woman, child and beast, to quickly familiarize themselves with these patterns and walk accordingly. If you see that everyone that is moving north is walking on the right side, and everyone that is moving south is walking on the left side of the sidewalk, then you need to fall in line. And for you punk ass tourists, being from a foreign country doesn’t exempt you from this unwritten law. You don’t have to be fluent in English to see what the fuck is going on.
Furthermore, whichever direction that you’re walking, you better look at where you’re going. I am quick to elbow some dumb motherfucker walking down a crowded city street who is so lost in a text message that they forget they’re walking on a busy street during lunchtime. A well-placed elbow or forearm shiver will be quick to bring such a person back to the real world that is going on all around them.
And speaking of cell phones, not everybody wants to hear your phone conversation. Personally, if I can help it I reserve all my convos for the crib. It’s bad enough that Obama and the boys are spying in on my calls. I gotta let the rest of the world conduct surveillance on my shit too?
I spend more time than I care to in my car each day, and it is behind the wheel where some of our mutual incivility most commonly comes to the fray. So this topic could have its own section, but I’ll just expound on a few brief points. First of all, driving does not merely involve getting in your car and hitting the gas. Good drivers are not only aware of their own actions, but the actions of the other drivers as well. So get out of the fast lane if you know you’re going to do the speed limit to the letter of the law. Also, if the opportunity allows and you see someone entering the highway from a ramp, get over into the next lane to let them in. But if you know you’re not a fast-lane driver, don’t fucking linger there. Stay in your lane, dude.
Pedestrians, don’t walk in the middle of the street when you don’t have the right of way. I’m from Chicago, I will seriously run your ass over and sleep well at night. Seriously. Get the fuck out of the way. I’m not going to slow down and I’m not the one to play chicken with.
Those lines in parking lots are there for a reason. Park in between them. Why must I be pinned in on my drivers-side by a mini-van; forced to spend the rest of my life in my car, because you never learned basic geometry?
Hey people, when you’re in the grocery store, don’t have your cart -or your fat ass- in the middle of the fuckin aisle. You know you’re in a store with other people. At some point, it should register that at least a few of those other people might want to come down this aisle to buy some Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes as well. Or some Honey Nut Cheerios if you’re Kevin Garnett. Whatever the case, slide to the side. And be proactive about it. Make sure that your shopping cart isn’t obstructing traffic before someone has to tell you. Or before you run into someone like me in the grocery store who will ram the shit out of your shopping cart if you take too long to move.
Public speaking is very tough. It continues to be people’s greatest phobia in a world where the media is inventing new things for us to be afraid of every week. So when you have the occasion to have an audience with a public speaker, show some common courtesy to stop texting for a few minutes. You’ll have plenty of time to text your best friend about Beyonce’s outfit at the Grammy’s when you get behind the wheel of your car. But listen to public speakers and stop texting. That shit is really rude. The fact that this rude shit has become so normal is very telling for where we’re at as a “civilization.”
We all make mistakes sometime. I’ve probably made no fewer than 10 in the time that it’s taken you to read this. Sometimes my mistakes are going to bring discomfort to others. As I’m not a psychopath, this won’t ever be done with malicious intent. So on the occasions that I do wrong someone I don’t feel that my self-image is compromised by simply saying, “my bad.” It’s ok to say that you were wrong. It’s ok to say you’re sorry. The world won’t implode.
Say thank you when somebody does something nice for you. Every time.
Finally, if you work in a customer service industry, the customary greeting in North America is “hello, may I help you.” Not “what’s up.” Not “yeah.” Not a nod of your head. But if it’s your aim to spend the next 30 years of your life doing the kind of work that you did in your first 30 then, by all means, keep doing exactly what you’re doing.
If you all agree to do some of that, then I’ll work on my motherfuckin’ profanity. I won’t disturb my neighbors as often by blasting my music at 3 in the morning. I won’t blow so much smoke from my car into yours. And I might even stop sitting on my horn if you hesitate at a green light for 1/100 of a second too long. If we all hold up our end, we’ll be on our way to making this a much better planet. Peace and God bless,